Now that winter’s in the air, your chances of catching a cold or coming down with the flu (or even COVID-19) have the potential to increase if you're spending more time indoors and closely packed around others.
To help you avoid sickness and keep crushing workouts and races, here’s your eight-step immunity-boosting plan.
How to Avoid Sickness This Winter (and All Year)
1. Add Sauna Sessions Into Your Training
Infrared saunas like Clearlight Sauna have become increasingly popular as part of a training and recovery plan for many high-performing athletes, including Spartan CEO Joe De Sena, who uses his Clearlight Sauna regularly.
Sitting in a sauna two to three times a week can not only help you perform better in more extreme temperatures, run better, and build more muscle, but these sessions also help to increase your blood flow, speed up your sweat rate (allowing your body to clear metabolic waste more efficiently), and reduce your rate of muscle glycogen consumption.
Plus, according to The Mayo Clinic, early research on infrared saunas shows some promise for a number of chronic health issues, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, and rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Find Moist Air
We tend to stay indoors when the weather gets cold, but being in close contact with our loved ones makes people-hopping easy for germs.
In addition, indoor air tends to be lower in humidity. Researchers at Columbia University showed that in dry air, particles emitted from sneezing and spluttering break into smaller pieces and are better able to stay aloft and inhaled by others. In the damp outdoors, however, particles are more likely to stay intact, dropping heavily to the ground and out of harm’s way.
A room or whole-house humidifier won’t just keep your lips moist—it can help you stay healthier all winter long.
3. Train Five Days a Week (or at Least Think About It)
Numerous studies have demonstrated that exercising regularly cuts cold and flu infections. In one 12-week study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that exercising five days a week reduced upper-respiratory tract infections by almost 50%.
Interestingly, researchers found a similar reduction in infection risk among people who think that they’re highly fit, whether they were exercising regularly or not.
To commit to crushing multiple workouts a week with our Spartan Master Coaches, download the Spartan FIT app now.
4. Get a Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Sunlight is in short supply during the winter, but as the primary provider of vitamin D, it’s essential that you get some sun exposure during the darker months. According to a three-year study published in Epidemiology and Infection, people who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily had 70% fewer colds and instances of the flu than those taking a placebo.
Try to get outside for as many hours a day as you can, and/or supplement with vitamin D–fortified food.
5. Stay Six Feet Away
As we've learned over the past few years, it can be a good idea to keep your distance from strangers in crowded public environments (especially when indoors). A study from Wake Forest School of Medicine revealed that infectious flu-containing particles exhaled by a sick person travel about 6 feet.
6. Clean Up After Yourself
In The Secret Life of Germs, author Philip Tierno, Ph.D., suggests sanitizing all shared items in your home and office: door handles, remote controls, computer keyboards, oven buttons, and so on.
“Rhinoviruses [the predominant cause of the common cold] can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours,” he writes.
So, give tables, handles, and doorknobs a good rub down with disinfectant at least once a week (or more, if someone in your house or office is sick).
7. Double Down on Consistent Sleep
David Katz, founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of Disease-Proof, writes that a good night’s sleep will do more to make you healthy than most anything else. And when it comes to sidestepping the common cold, he’s not wrong.
In a survey carried out by the University of California, participants who said they slept for five hours or less on an average weeknight were 28% more likely to catch a cold — and 82% more likely to contract the flu — compared with those who slept for seven to eight hours on weeknights.
8. Eat More Protein
And finally, a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases shows that diets low in protein can weaken the immune system. So, add protein-rich foods such as milk, Greek yogurt, eggs, and fish to your daily menus and eat your way into good health this winter (and all year).